An Act of Vice and Malice (Preview)

Prologue

Helena Martin looked out over the horizon, admiring the muscular shape of her husband, Jared, as he rode with his best friend and foreman, Gary Lawson, through the pasture. She knew how hard they’d been working to get this cattle drive going. Jared had been looking forward to it, as it was the last one he would be going on that year—and the biggest sale he’d made that year, too.

She turned her eyes back down to her sewing. It was a small repair job she was doing for the local creamer, Laurence. His wife had passed away suddenly, leaving him a helpless widow unable to sew, cook, or clean after himself with any real efficiency. Helena was an accomplished seamstress and though she had married what she considered to be above her station monetarily, she still took sewing jobs from her friends and neighbors all around Tall Oaks, Colorado, where she was born and raised.

It was her husband, Jared, who was the transplant. Having come from one of the other western territories still struggling to find its place on the map, Jared and his sister, Martha, had moved to Tall Oaks when they were in their teens after the sudden death of their parents. Griffon Andrews, Martha’s husband of only a few months, had come with them. He was a grumpy man, in Helena’s opinion, and didn’t seem to really want to be in Tall Oaks, where his wife and Jared had had an aunt, Margaret.

Helena looked up again, focusing her eyes on her husband, lowering the sewing to rest it and her hands in her lap. She sighed, thinking about those first years together—when they first met, while they were courting when they were married. How lovely it had all been. In the thirteen years since they were first introduced, they’d had only a handful of arguments, and those were usually the result of simple misunderstandings.

She and Martha had become fast friends once Helena and Jared had started courting. She liked Martha quite a lot. They were best friends, in fact. Griff, on the other hand, was a mystery, even after all this time. Sometimes, he was friendly, stirring up mischief and making everyone laugh. But normally, he had a gruff exterior, a semi-permanent frown, a dark look in his green eyes. His red hair betrayed his temper. Helena had never been witness to any of his temper tantrums, but Martha had told her on occasion that Griff liked to throw his weight around.

Helena didn’t see the kind of happiness she had with Jared when she looked at the marriage of Martha and Griff. Helena was not a busybody, though, and she kept her nose out of other people’s business. But she often wondered what it was that had drawn Martha to Griff in the first place. They had been married only a year and half longer than Helena and Jared, and Helena couldn’t think of any especially happy times they’d spent together. She’d never seen Martha with a heart-pounding smile on her face or heard any delighted laughter shared between her and her husband.

Helena felt sorry for her. She’d probably forgotten more times she and Jared had laughed themselves to tears than she remembered.

Her heartbeat sped up when she saw Jared turn his horse in her direction and start riding toward her. She set the sewing on the small table next to the iron chair she was sitting in and got to her feet, anxious to see him.

When he was close enough, she started down the porch steps to meet him at the bottom.

“Good afternoon, my dear,” he greeted her as he slid from the saddle. He put one hand under her elbow and she lifted up on her tiptoes to give him a soft kiss on the lips, which he returned. “You are looking lovely. Did you do something different with your hair?”

Helena giggled. Jared often asked her that question at random and her answer was always the same. It had become something of a tradition and always made Helena feel a strong surge of affection for her husband.

“No, not today,” she responded softly, giving him a big grin.

Jared clucked his tongue. “Darn it,” he said with humor. “Someday I’ll ask just at the right time.”

“I do hope you don’t take too long on your cattle drive, Jared. I know you’re excited about it, especially since it’s the last one for this season, but I’m going to miss you.”

“And I’m going to miss you, too. You’re the light of my life, you know that? The gleam in my eye. The match to my flame. The honey to my bee.” Jared looked up at the sky, seemingly trying to think of what else Helena was to him. She laughed and slapped him playfully on the arm.

“Oh, you. I’m not the honey to your bee. I’m the flower to your bee. I don’t think I’m something you can make.”

Jared laughed out loud, realizing his blunder. “Oh my. And I don’t think that’s something I want to try to picture.”

They both laughed as they went up the steps to the porch. Jared walked to the small table and picked up her sewing.

“Laurence?” he asked, looking over his shoulder at her.

She nodded, dropping her eyes to examine the work she’d done so far. “Yes, just a small repair job on several of his work shirts that were ripped.”

Jared nodded, setting the shirt back down on the table. “I don’t know many men who would let their wives do another man’s sewing work. Especially if they aren’t being paid.”

Helena smiled at him, coming over to retrieve the work. “He does pay me,” she protested gently, “when he can.”

Jared reached out and pulled her to him by cupping the back of her neck under her long blond hair, which she had left down since she wasn’t planning to leave the property that day. He placed a firm kiss on her forehead and hugged her tight.

“You are such a nice woman, Helena. You’re just… so nice. I don’t know what I did to deserve you but I’m one doggone lucky man to have you.”

Helena’s heart slammed in her chest. Warm affection spread over her from head to toe. She put her arms around him and hugged him back.

“I love you, Jared. I’m going to miss you. Hurry home.”

“You know I will, my dear,” he responded softly, his breath brushing across the skin of her ear, making her tingle all over. “I’m coming home to you.”

Chapter One

The memory of leaving Tall Oaks to do this last cattle drive stayed with Jared the entire trip. It was the last night of the trip and they would be home by the next evening. The anticipation made it hard for Jared to sleep.

The drive had been successful. They had lost no cows along the way, the weather was absolutely beautiful the whole time, and they’d encountered no ruffians or outlaws or anyone wishing to do them harm. He was making more money selling these cows than he could believe. All they had to do now was get them to the train station and collect the payment, which they would be doing first thing in the morning.

It was almost like the sale had been too good to be true. Once it was finalized, he would be giving a substantial bonus to his men because of it, which would make them ecstatic and likely even harder workers until the next season came around.

Jared liked to think of his ranch hands as his friends, not just his employees. He thought he had found a good balance between the two. He was closest to his foreman, Gary, whom he considered to be his best friend.

He’d taken his bed sack to the field behind the temporary housing they’d rented for the night and was laying in the grass, looking up at the stars with his fingers laced together behind his head. Jared was feeling particularly satisfied, though he was anxious to get home. He could hear the rustling of the cows, the random moos that split the night air when it was quiet. He loved it. He loved everything about being a cattle rancher.

If there was one thing Jared would admit, it was that he was a blessed man. He had a wonderful, loving wife, money in his bank account, quite a lot of land with valuable cattle roaming it, a working farm, and a big house. Was there anything he was missing?

There was one thing missing. One thing Jared had always wanted that he did not have.

Children.

Although he and Helena had prayed for a child to bless their marriage, it had never come. Jared was beginning to give up hope. It was Helena that kept that hope alive, she who prayed every night with the fervor of a desperate woman, asking God to bless them with a child. She never gave up. She told him she had faith and that if God could give Abraham and Sarah a child when they were in their nineties, He could give them one when they were in their thirties.

As a result, Jared continued praying as his wife sustained his hope.

“What you doin’ out here, boss?”

He heard Gary’s voice and lifted his head to look at the man standing at his feet.

“Just enjoyin’ this fresh air. What’s wrong? Get lonely without me?”

Gary laughed, dropping to sit next to Jared in a cross-legged position. “Yeah. Not like there’s six other men in that house, snorin’ and keepin’ the rest of us up.”

Jared laughed with his foreman. He hadn’t left the small residence because of the snoring, but he’d heard it along the road and it wasn’t pleasant.

“Once that Bruce gets started, he could wake the dead.”

Gary nodded. “Yep. So, you’re out here ponderin’ life, huh? I bet you can’t wait to get back home.”

“I really can’t,” Jared responded, pushing himself to a sitting position. “I miss it whenever I leave my house.”

“I don’t know how you and Helena do it. I was married once when I was young and it was great and all but… after this many years, I don’t know how you keep it going so… happily. It’s kinda weird.”

Jared grinned wide and shrugged. “Comes naturally. Trust me, I ask myself all the time how I got it so good. And… well, I reckon I’ve come up with one or two things that might make sense if you’re tryin’ to pin this whole situation down.”

Gary laughed. “Listen to you, soundin’ like some kind of scholar or somethin’.”

“Nah, not me,” Jared said pleasantly, shaking his head. “I’m no scholar. I just think about things like this whenever I’m away.”

Gary pulled his canteen from his side and lifted it to his lips. “Tell me what you’ve come up with, then.” He tipped the canteen and spilled some of the contents in his mouth. Jared wondered what he was drinking. He caught a faint scent in the air when Gary blew out and realized it was whiskey.

He held out his hand and jerked his head up once in the direction of the canteen. Gary chuckled and handed it to him.

Jared took a drink of the whiskey. As the liquor burned down his throat, he felt an instant lightheadedness typical to someone who didn’t often partake.

He wasn’t really sure if he wanted to explain what he’d been thinking to Gary. After a moment’s hesitation, he said, “It’s just that Helena and I have always wanted a child. It seems to me like we have everything else but that. It’s the only thing we ever wanted… and it’s the one thing we don’t have. Maybe that’s the reason everything else is so good for us.”

Gary gave him a direct look and then let out a gentle snort. “You think God gave you everything else because He wasn’t gonna give you a child?”

Jared eyed his friend. “Don’t let Helena hear you say that. She will never give up hope and is certain someday we’ll have that little baby. But I’m tellin’ ya, Gary, sometimes…” He shook his head. “Sometimes I really don’t think—”

“Don’t!” Gary barked, making Jared jump. “Sorry. Didn’t mean for that to come out so loud. I just don’t want to hear you saying that. If anything, you can go to one of the orphanages in the cities and adopt a child. You know I’m right. You’ll have children someday. We all know it. And you’ll be wonderful parents.”

Jared had talked to his friend before about getting a child from an orphanage. In thirteen years, though, he’d never been able to bring up the option to Helena. She was sure they would have one of their own.

Someday.

Jared was only thirty-three years old. He was still young, plenty young to have a baby. Helena had just turned thirty and the doctor was beginning to warn her about the passage of time. It wasn’t for lack of trying, they both knew that. What could it be that prevented them from having a child?

Tall Oaks’ beloved doctor, Abe Longmont, was a sprightly, wiry man who’d had white hair since Jared had come to the small Colorado town fifteen years earlier. He’d told them to relax and not be too stressed about it. He said that might have an effect on the likelihood of pregnancy.

“You’re lost in thought,” Gary said, bringing him back to the present. Jared had been staring out into space and now slid his eyes to his friend.

“You’re right,” he conceded, “I was lost in thought. I think Helena and I are very blessed, both of us, and maybe… well, maybe it’s not possible to be perfectly happy.”

Gary lowered his eyelids and looked at his friend under them. “You still haven’t brought up the orphanages, have you?” he asked in a low voice.

Jared sighed. “No. I guess I haven’t.”

Gary shook his head. “I gotta say I’m a little disappointed, Jared. We’ve been talking about that possibility for, what, three years now, and you haven’t even talked to your wife about it? Don’t you think that’s a topic you should be talking to her about and not me? Not that I don’t want to be here for ya, boss, just… Well, she needs to know what’s on your mind.”

Jared looked away from his friend, pondering his response. Gary was right. He should be talking to Helena about it. “I’ll bring it up next time we talk.”

Gary gave him a skeptical look.

“What? I will. I swear. On my mother’s grave. And you know that’s serious.”

Jared didn’t mind swearing on his mother’s grave. She would have been on board with it. He couldn’t say the same about his father, who would probably have been offended by such an act.

“You say that now but when you’re talking to her, you know you’ll change your mind.”

“No.” Jared shook his head. “I’m going to talk to her about it. You’re right, we don’t talk about it a lot. But we do sometimes and the next time we do, I’ll bring it up. I swear I will.”

“Okay, that’s enough swearing.”

They both laughed.

Chapter Two

Gary stayed out in the field with Jared, talking for another hour or so. Eventually, they both got quiet and Jared realized Gary had fallen asleep.

He grabbed one of the two blankets he’d brought out with him and tossed it gently over his friend. He rolled the other one up and used it as a pillow, resuming his earlier activity of staring up at the stars. He had to be up and at it soon, but he wasn’t at all sleepy.

Jared and Gary had been talking about Jared’s sister, Martha, and her husband, right before their conversation dropped off. Jared remembered the first time Martha had brought the man home to meet him and their parents. She was sixteen years old, and Griff was seventeen. He’d asked their father for her hand in marriage that first meeting. Griff had presented himself as a capable and strong young man, but he had little money. Still, he was a hard worker and had convinced their father he would be good for Martha.

Since she’d seemed smitten with the young man, their parents had welcomed Griff into their home and family.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Griff to show his true colors—at least to Jared. He’d never been able to tell his parents what Griff was really about. Now he was glad he hadn’t. Griff wasn’t mean to Martha; in fact, Jared was sure Griff loved his sister. But he was a cold man, uncaring and uncomplimentary, and Jared thought his sister deserved better than that.

He was also an extremely jealous man. He had often started fights with strangers if he thought they were looking at Martha wrong.

That first meeting should have been a telling experience for Jared, but he’d only been fourteen. To the present day, he didn’t understand what had made Griff act the way he had that night.

It was after dinner and the two young men had gone out to the barn to finish evening chores. They were actually Jared’s chores, of course, because Griff didn’t live there with him and his family. But while the women were cleaning up the dishes from dinner, Griff had offered to help Jared.

Even at fourteen, Jared had been comfortable enough in his own skin to make friends easily. He tried to understand everyone he met as a person with their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs. He had his own opinions and while he didn’t spout them at every chance, he didn’t shirk them when someone else had a different opinion.

When Griff had tried to rough him up that night, Jared had been taken by surprise—and it hadn’t ended well for him.

There was just enough light for the two boys to see as they crossed the front lawn to get to the stable and the barn. Jared could hear the horses whinnying inside and wondered if a storm was coming, or if there was a large animal in the woods that surrounded his family farm.

“Restless tonight,” he mumbled.

“What was that?” 

Jared glanced over his shoulder at the boy his sister had brought home to dinner. He’d already asked their father if he could marry Martha, so Jared expected he would be around a lot more often now. 

“The horses,” he answered. “They’re restless. Think there might be a storm coming or somethin’.”

Griff looked up at the starry sky, snorting. “Ain’t a cloud in the sky. So, probably not, I’m thinkin’.”

Jared was a little taken aback by the tone of Griff’s voice. He lifted one eyebrow as he turned his head away and looked where he was going. They were inside a few minutes later and Jared quickly had the lanterns lit and hanging on the various posts around the barn. The stable was attached to the barn in a unique way that Jared’s pa had thought up, building a large corridor between the two buildings big enough to lead the horses through one at a time if necessary. There were plenty of other ways to get into the stable, but Jared liked to come in through the barn so he could start there and make his way to the last stall. 

Jared kept up with his chores. At fourteen, he’d heard his father describe him as one of the most responsible men he’d ever encountered in his life. He knew he had a good head on his shoulders but he wasn’t egotistical about it. There was nothing special about him, he just lived his life with his eyes open, observing, learning, and understanding easier than some of his classmates. He related to the older generation and held good conversations with them at church or at parties and festivals. 

His mother called it maturity. Whatever it was, Jared was comfortable with himself and tried not to be amused that Griff was, for some odd reason, trying to be intimidating.

Jared glanced at Griff once or twice while he was sweeping up hay and dust from the barn floor. The older boy had pulled out a tin and was currently pushing chewing tobacco into his mouth. Jared immediately glanced away, disgusted by the thought of putting the nasty smelling stuff in his own mouth and chewing on it. And the thought of constantly spitting like that made Jared want to retch.

He moved as quickly as he could, wanting the chores to be over with quickly so he didn’t have to be around Griff. He sensed the boy’s insecurity; it was practically pouring from Griff’s skin like a bad odor. Like the smell of his tobacco and spit. And his breath.

Jared hurried even faster. 

“So…” Griff said, leaning against one of the load-bearing poles. He looked around through narrow eyelids. “Must be nice growing up with all this. I didn’t have nothin’ like this. City folks get lots of other people to be around instead of animals.”

“Oh, are you from the city?” This piqued Jared’s interest. He’d been thinking about visiting the next time his father did a cattle drive but hadn’t asked to go along yet. 

He was a little worried about the hustle and bustle his pa always described. Jared wasn’t a fast-moving young man. He liked to take life as it came and take his time doing it, if necessary. As little stress as possible. 

“I’ve always wanted to visit and see what that’s like. Where are you from?”

Griff sneered, making Jared’s chest tighten. He saw where the boy was going to take the conversation before Griff even went there. 

“Never been to the city, huh? Doesn’t surprise me. I would’ve guessed that if I’d seen ya in my city. Country bumpkin. Backwoods people who don’t know what livin’ is really like.”

Jared had stopped sweeping when he heard Griff was from the city. He’d propped his broom up in both hands, one over the other, smiling at Griff. Now, the other boy’s response made him freeze for a moment, give Griff a confused look, and then shake his head as he started sweeping again. It was then that he realized Griff hadn’t come to help him with his chores. 

“I like the way I live,” he said, keeping his voice neutral, not wanting to set the other boy off. “And this is what Martha is used to. So, if you plan to take her back to the city, you gotta prepare her for the changes.”

He glanced at Griff to see what the boy’s reaction would be. Griff looked thoughtful for a moment, giving Jared the impression there might be hope for him. Those hopes were dashed when Griff said, “Nah, I ain’t takin’ her to the city. I’m comin’ here to live with you and your family.”

That announcement made Jared’s stomach turn. 

It had been fifteen years and he still felt that twist in his gut. Griff couldn’t be counted on for anything. Jared had grown to be successful and happy. Griff had never gone past being a ranch hand and refused to be Jared’s, so he and Martha lived in the house their Aunt Margaret had left to them after she passed away and he worked for a rival rancher.

Jared had tried hard to help Griff grow into a successful businessman, sharing his knowledge with Griff whenever he had a chance. But it never turned out the way Jared intended or wanted. Griff ended up getting angry because he didn’t want to listen to Jared’s advice, which almost always turned out to be spot on.

Right before he rolled over and closed his eyes to get some sleep, Jared looked at Gary. His sleeping friend looked so peaceful. Jared could remember so many times when the two of them had shared a pipe or a bottle of whiskey, laughing at something or another, talking for hours on end about everything under the sun.

Gary was like the brother Jared had never had. He’d never felt like his brother-in-law was his real brother. Gary filled that spot even though Griff had had a chance at it first.

Jared was grateful to have Gary in his life. When he was fourteen, he may have felt like an adult. But when he really matured, he realized everyone needed someone to be their best friend, their confidant, someone they could share everything with.

People who didn’t probably turned out like Griff, angry and unhappy.

Jared was glad he wasn’t one of those people.

Chapter Three

Tall Oaks was in his sights. Jared didn’t even try to deny the excitement that lit his skin up with tingles. He was almost home.

“I’m gonna stop at the mercantile,” Gary said. “We need anything at the ranch?”

Jared didn’t want to stop. But he was aware there were things he needed to get and besides, a fresh bouquet of flowers sounded like the perfect gift for Helena.

“Yep, I’ll stop with ya,” Jared said.

Gary grinned. “Gotta get something for Helena, don’t ya? I’m surprised you aren’t loaded down with gifts.” He shook his head and mumbled, “Kinda makes me a little sick,” which made Jared laugh out loud.

They pulled their horses up to the store and slid out of their saddles at the same time. Jared’s spurs clinked as he hopped up the three steps to the walkway in front of the store.

Two young ladies were walking toward them. Jared got the impression they were headed to the mercantile, as well, so he pulled the door open and stepped back, holding it for them.

They both smiled as they passed but one of them stopped to talk to him. It was Aurora, the schoolteacher and one of Helena’s best friends.

“Just back from your cattle drive, Jared?” she asked in a kind voice.

He nodded. “Yes, finally back, and glad to be. Last one of the season, you know.”

Aurora nodded as her friend went into the store and disappeared down the aisles. “Yes, I think I heard Helena mention that when she was in for her beauty treatment at the same time as me. Down at the parlor, you know.”

Jared feigned ignorance. “Beauty treatment?” he asked in a confused voice. “Surely not. Neither of you have any need for such a thing.”

Aurora gave him an amused grin. “Well, aren’t you sweet? I’ll have to tell Helena what a lucky woman she is.”

Jared shook his head. “No, that would be me. The lucky one. Blessed, I like to say.”

“Well, I think the world of both of you,” Aurora gushed. “And you just tell that pretty wife of yours when you see her that we all missed her at the social this morning and we hope she’s doing all right.”

Jared’s lighthearted mood deflated somewhat. “She missed the social?”

Aurora blinked at him. “Yes, she did. We assumed she wasn’t feeling up to it. It’s all right. Really.”

“Has she missed other times?”

Jared was a bit put off that his wife had missed the Saturday social. She’d been attending the weekly all-women party for as long as he could remember.

“Oh, she’s missed before,” Aurora said comfortingly, shaking her head. “You don’t have to worry. I’m sure she just had a little headache or got caught up in her sewing or drawing or whatever she likes to do.”

Jared had to admit his wife had many hobbies and ways to entertain herself. She was outgoing but never minded time on her own, either. She was the kind of woman who liked to be doing many things at once.

“All right. Well, I’ll tell her you said hello when I see her.”

Aurora grinned. “You do that. Have a lovely day now.”

“You, too.” Jared nodded and followed her into the mercantile.

Ten minutes later, he was back out on the street and pulling himself up into the saddle, a large bouquet of flowers in his hand. He hadn’t really had to say anything. He’d let Brenda, the woman who ran the store, pick out the bouquet from a variety of flowers she had in stock lining the wall behind the counter.

He settled in the saddle and waited for Gary to come out. The foreman poked his head out of the door and got Jared’s attention a few minutes later.

“Boss! Go on to the house. I’ll be right behind you.”

Jared nodded. “All right, see you in a few.”

He turned the horse away from the store and rode away, sitting tall in the saddle, holding the flowers up as if he was on his way to propose marriage to the woman of his dreams.

Jared didn’t have to do that. He already had. Thirteen wonderful years ago.

He was already excited to see his wife again, to sleep in his own bed, to eat food prepared by his cook, who made everything just the way he liked. But when he saw the peak of his roof piercing the sky in the distance, his heart beat faster. His mouth practically watered for whiskey or brandy from his own glass decanters.

Jared didn’t start feeling like something was off until he turned up the path that led to his house. The first thing that set off the alarm in his head was that his dogs, Grouch and Sniffer, didn’t come bounding to greet him. They were strangely absent, which led him to realize how quiet everything actually was.

Jared had taken three ranch hands with him and Gary, leaving five behind to take care of the place while he was gone. Although he wouldn’t have expected to see them all, he would have thought at least one would be doing some work closer to the house. He’d asked them to keep an eye on things, make sure Helena was safe and no bandits or poachers came on the property.

Tingles of apprehension replaced the excitement as Jared got closer to his house. The wooded area that flanked the pathway to the house gave way to a clearing that quickly became the front lawn and entrance compound to his property. The barn was on one side, attached to the stable the way his father had done. That stable was attached to another one with a similar corridor.

The stall barns where the cows were kept were also attached, three buildings with two corridors in between. These long buildings made a wide arc around the back of the property, starting to the left of the house as he approached and ending far in the distance behind the main house. The bunk house and chow house were on the right of the property when facing the main house some fifty yards from his front porch.

Jared made a wide sweep of the property with his eyes as soon as he came out of the path into the clearing.

There was no one coming to greet him. No dogs, no animals, no men.

No Helena.

“Helena!” Jared called out, the first stab of fear slicing through him like a hot knife. “Where are you, darling?”

He got no response. He slowed his horse so he could peer more closely around him, searching for some kind of movement. He turned his head from one side to the other, scanning the buildings. He saw nothing. There would be no lanterns lit, since it was still bright and sunny out.

“Sniffer!” he yelled out, calling the friendlier of the two dogs first. “Where are ya, boy? Come on, say hello to papa!”

Jared turned physically in the saddle and looked behind him on both sides.

No dogs. No men.

No Helena.

“Where is everybody?” he shouted, turning back to face the front.

An idea came to his mind. They were probably all inside, getting ready to surprise him with a welcome home party. That sounded like something Helena would do. Maybe that was why Gary hadn’t come with him right away.

Maybe Gary was hiding inside with the rest of them, having taken a shortcut and ridden his horse as fast as he could.

Jared pushed his tongue against his cheek and tried not to grin. He had such good friends. Such a loving wife. How did he get so lucky?

He rode closer to the house, his lips working as he tried not to laugh.

“Hey, y’all need to come on out now, before ya scare the life out of me. You know I don’t like that kind of thing.”

Jared was lying through his teeth. Everyone knew he loved a good surprise.

He jumped down from the saddle and lit up the steps, taking them two at a time.

“Helena! I’m home! Come on out now!”

He bounded across the porch and grinned wider when he saw the front door was slightly open.

He pulled in a deep breath and burst through the door, expecting the foyer to be full of his friends and employees. He had a housekeeper, a cook, and two maids, as well as a groomsman and a landscaper.

But the foyer was empty.

The house was silent.

Confused, Jared stood in the foyer for a moment, looking from the door to the dining room and kitchen to the left over to the parlor door on the right.

“Helena?”

Once again, his confusion turned to fear as it slipped through his chest. When his eyes caught sight of the halfway open parlor door, something on the other side made him freeze. There was a small set of drawers next to a couch in the parlor, just in front of one of the large windows.

The top drawer in the set had been pulled out. Its contents appeared to have spilled on the floor and were scattered there.

Jared’s heart nearly stopped. He flew to the door of the parlor and shoved it open all the way, stepping inside.

“No,” he whispered, his eyes moving from one side of the room to the other. It was a complete mess. It looked like a tornado had gone through the room. Even the stuffing of the couch had been pulled out after the fabric was ripped through with a knife.

The parlor was destroyed, and Helena wasn’t answering him.


“An Act of Vice and Malice” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Jared Martin returns home from a cattle drive only to find his home invaded, two of his ranch hands dead, the other three injured, and his beloved wife Helen missing. Soon he discovers that she was caught in the action and kidnapped by the ruthless bandits who wrecked his ranch. With no time to waste, he immediately lays a plan, and with the help of the lawmen and his closest friends, he sets out to find his wife. Will Jared manage to accomplish the most challenging and risky mission of his life and find Helen before it’s too late?

Being one of the most successful ranchers in Colorado meant that Jared was often resented and envied for his wealth. Jared too considered himself to be extremely lucky, especially for having Helen in his life. His love for her knows no bounds, so he will go to the ends of the earth to give the kidnappers what they want in order to get her back safe and sound. However, their demands prove to be almost impossible to meet… The kidnappers seek a treasure he doesn’t have and to his knowledge, it might as well not even exist. How will he guarantee the safety of his beloved Helen when he knows it is impossible to produce the ransom?

With time running short and lives hanging by a thread, Jared must come up with a way to outsmart the kidnappers. Yet he doesn’t know there is a terrible surprise in store for him, one that could alter the course of his future with his wife forever. Will he manage to get to Helen in time and bring the outlaws to justice? Or will they both be doomed to a terrible fate?

A pulse-pounding drama, which will make you turn the pages with bated breath until the very last word. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“An Act of Vice and Malice” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

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2 thoughts on “An Act of Vice and Malice (Preview)”

  1. You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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